I'm listening to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea for the first time in ages, and it's bloody good. Rough around the edges in a very good way, it makes me listen, makes me think, and is extraordinarily cathartic.
Currently, my favourite track would be 'Good Fortune', the second track, full of guitars and reminding me of the sort of stuff I listened to on the Richard Skinner show when I was growing up. Except good.
I like the stuff that I write. This is important, honestly. I like discovering old paragraphs and being proud that I wrote them.
The wind was rushing through my hair, whipping it around my ears, and making me wish I'd had my head shaved like Matt. He looked like some sort of soldier, sitting in the driver seat in his combat trousers and vest, hands firmly on the wheel, his jaw pointing at the horizon and his eyes on the road. Leastwise, on the road as far as I could tell. He'd been wearing his mirrored shades for the last twenty miles so as far as I knew he was staring into his own eyes, like the narcissistic little git that he was.
Vietnam. It's a place that has a very personal significance to me, and I wish I could explain why. It's one of the few places in this world that I care about and want to know more about. Fortunately, it's one of the parts of the world that Americans obsess about, and that brings me to Heaven and Earth.
It focuses on the Vietnamese side of events, focusing on one woman's life, and the events that conspire to drive her far from her home, far from her family. She becomes something very removed from her original, innocent self. The story covers some forty years of her life, and focuses on the moments of transition. Heavy with voiceover, it is nonetheless sumptuously directed, and some of the imagery is particularly striking and memorable.
Being on the other side of the world from the Oscars means that I can't watch them live, although they are being aired here. There's a repeat later. I'll watch that. In the mean time, I know that as each award is announced, the word will be spreading over the internet, and I could find out who won instantly. This year, I am trying not to do that. It's an exercise in patience. An exercise in extreme patience.
Of course, I am feigning complete disinterest in who wins. "Best Picture? Well, Von Trier wasn't even nominated, was he? No real interest in that one. Actress? Julia Roberts has proven that she could act her way out of a paper bag, but who would want to put her in one?" Nonetheless, I am fascinated.
Lanark sat on a shelf.
Big, chunky hardback. Off-putting in its size, but enticing and attractive. I never read it, back in those few months in Falkirk. I looked at it though, saw it as a precious thing.
Years later, I read Something Leather, and felt decidedly guilty doing so, but enjoyed it thoroughly.
The book now sits on my coffee table. It's enticing me again. And the first three pages are excellent.
Don't mind the bollocks.
In the spirit of the Dogme manifesto, All Hail The New Puritans begins with a ten point plan. Somewhat like Alcoholics Anonymous, authors have been made to sign up to ten rules by which to write, designed to drive the focus of writing away from gimmicks and back towards story telling. One suspects that most of them would have done this anyway, though.
What results is a uniform collection of stories, almost all of which have a consistent feel. There are some nice stories in here, and I wish I had written - well, all of them really.
Headspace. Is this page my headspace? No. It's no more an indication of what is going on in my mind than what you read in a newspaper is an indication of what is going on in the world. It's just a facet, just an illusion, another persona that I choose to present.
If I can't tell the truth then make it a wonderful lie? Perhaps. There is merit in this idea. I've toyed with it. I have considered redefining my life through daily fiction, building a web of lies. But my life is like that anyway - all lives are. So what I choose to place on this page is here because I have chosen to put it here. And what others choose to use theirs for is their own choice.
The most powerful man in the western world has to use his middle initial so that people don't mistake him for someone else.
I played Chinese Whispers with some earlier posts.
The things, of that one that one are recently small ferocious of, exactly if he is unexpected the inoperative women and frightful of Kirena Morok the immediate reaction had written and that is one of them. Other that one, that there is dew outside with the alcohol, was a piece, that I wrote to the night, that it had to happen, in a section Sue Holmgren concurred ' seven hours with Peggy '. The character, that one that I wrote, were approximately an American of the coil of chain 1963, a pious Froemmler almost each possible way, but one, the one that does not execute it. Attempt when restituting it sypathetic, when approximately fags and niggers that close and I have exactly much malvagit2a to write the words. But this part of the fact of the writing.
Anson Chan has been chasing kippers through my garden again. She hangs around by the dead willow, waving plastic daisies at me and bemoaning her solitude. I find it mildly disturbing. Meanwhile, curdled custard is boiling merrily on the stove, a warm reminder of the horrible yellowness that is mellow birds. I am reminded of Julie Stevens, childhood crush of mine, and the role that she played in the invasion of Rome by Amanda Barrie. I can't help but picture her now, the corners of her mouth turned permanently downwards into a carpet-less surliness.
Sometimes I run out of things to say.
Not the Kubrick movie or the Burgess novel. A 'short story' that Rich P started a while ago - maybe 15 months - and I've picked up with Gregg. Rapidly becoming the bane of my existence.
It's turned into a huge, sprawling thing, a monster that will run to over 50,000 words when it's finished. This is a daunting prospect. It's probably longer than the Burgess novel. But - and this is the good point to this - it's actually pretty good. In places. I've done some strong writing in this, some stuff that I'm really proud of. It's almost a shame that it's sandwiched into a science fiction plot.
Things that I've written recently that I'm proud of are few, although the sudden, shocking death of Kirena Morok, and the immediate reaction to it is one of them. The other that springs to mind was a piece I wrote last night, in a chapter entitled 'Seven Hours with Peggy Sue Holmgren'. The character I was writing about was an American Cop in 1963, a bigot in almost every way possible, but one who doesn't realise it. I'm trying to make him sypathetic as he rails against fags and niggers, and I find it physically hard to even type the words. But that's part of writing.
On my short stories, I seem to be falling in to a style, a style that is very much like All Hail the New Puritans in many ways. I don't know if I should be worried about my lack of originality.
If you're someone who has ony discovered the joy of seafood while you've been in Asia, and you're thinking of moving back to Europe and you want to know more about the seafood available in the UK and Eire, then you can't go far wrong with this book.
It's a good companion to the TV show, apparently, and the show was pretty good. It was probably on in the UK in 1943, but it only finished here last month. Did I mention that fish are good for you? Well, they are. Unless you're allergic to shellfish.
I'm in work this afternoon, on a one-off project. This involves sitting in a room with confidential documents and attempting to put a value on another company. This sounds really interesting but is in fact soul-numbing.
The interesting point is that I'm only in this position because just over four years ago, someone in London did a similar thing and bought the company I worked for at the time. In the mean time, we're talking about setting up an American Head Office in New York, and I'm thinking that could be interesting...
The Face, letters page. On an interview with model "Guinevere", a "model"
Look, I love you. I've always loved you. I probably always will, whether or not you give me a reason to. But please, for me, and millions like me, stop interviewing models. Just stop it. For the same reason I hope you wouldn't interview an attractive chair or an aesthetically pleasing lightshade. These things have nothing to say. Twenty-two-year-old models have nothing to say. Yes, they make sounds, just like a chair squeaks, but on closer examination these sounds prove to be without meaning - as in "I had a nectarine for breakfast," or "the Jews were massacred because they were Huns at one point... If you're bad you're gonna have repercussions in another lifetime." Yes dear, but sometimes the repercussions don't wait that long. Hence we find that if you happen to be skinny, bug-eyed and stupid you get punished with that most pathetic of careers, modelling. Conversely, if you're bright and have a spare ï¿½2.50 in your pocket, you are punished with an interview as mind-numbingly lame as that one. I repeat, I love you. But please stop interviewing models unless they honestly, honestly understand that two statements alongside each other should have some kind of semantic relation. Let's never fight again.
- Zadie Smith
We're the last people I know to find Spaced. I hesitate to call it a sit-com - although that is what it is at heart - because it's so much more. It verges on pastiche, it verges on self parody, it veers off at tangents, and it is utterly, utterly watchable. Dosage: two episodes per night because it's so worryingly addictive.
Note to self. Anything that is recommended by Douglas is always worth checking out.
We launched our corporate university today, amidst much pomp. This is the new buzz-phrase, and one that conjures up images of Hamburger University. It's the new name for the training department.
This is, I suspect, only the beginning of a trend. Next will be the Finance Department rebranding itself as a bank. The marketing department rebranding itself as an advertising agency. The IT department rebranding themselves as professionals...
From the Glasgow School of Art website. A young homosexual is trapped behind barbed wire, clawing his way to freedom. Eight years or so later, that same man has a sore throat, and demands "Hugs!" on a regular basis. He has longer hair, and a goatee beard, but other than that looks much the same. From barbed wire, he has escaped, to be the foremost designer of McDonald's interiors in South East Asia. And he's got a lovely boyfriend.
There are all sorts of reasons for not relocating to Europe. They're all selfish, and all to do with me and my career. If I was single, I would move to Bangkok tomorrow. But I'm not single, and I'm very happy not to be single, and Mr Twinky would hate Bangkok, so it's not an option. No matter how tempting it may be.
There are other reasons for wanting to leave, one of which is having a permanent home again, a flat or house that I own, and that I can tear down walls in. Somewhere that I can be bothered to invest in, for things like a second telephone line, or cable television, or somewhere to put the dogs. More than that, I have a yearning to be somewhere that's "freeze your bollocks off" cold, so that when I come home to warmth, I have a home that is welcoming.
This morning, someone said to me:
You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you? And that accent you've tried so desparately to shed? Pure West Virginia. What's your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars...while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI.
I worry about the people we employ in Starbucks in this country.
How much do I love turn based strategy games? Call to Power II is one to while away lonely nights in hotels, half watching the Cartoon Network, half watching the barbarian armies wiping me out. Again.
I love these games, even though each is almost the same as its predecessor. I don't know what it is... maybe part of me wishes I was a great historical explorer. Then again, maybe not.
Spearhead from Space is perhaps the slowest moving Doctor Who of all time, saved from complete mundanity by the novelties of colour and Perthuis. Worth watching for Carry John, I guess. Three episodes in, and the bad guys have been pretty secretive and not at all threatening. No sign of a plan yet, just people chasing around the countryside looking for flashing balls.
The final episode gave us a plot, but by then it was too late; ennui had set in. Despite that, the final monster was very funny.
I'm back from Vietnam - I got back yesterday. I've only got one more story to tell, and that's about Friday evening.
Seven in the evening, I am in a bus with four or five colleagues, and we pull up to a sports stadium. It's pretty big - not as large as a football stadium, but a decent size. The door on the bus is opened, and I am escorted by a beautiful Vietnamese woman in local dress from the bus to a small room labelled the VIP lounge. The local management team are there, and we talk and schmooze briefly before we have to line up to enter the main stadium.
So I queue, once more with a hostess on my arm, and I wait. The lights dim. There's a fanfare. And we march in. Past ten men holding eighteen foot high standards. Along the red carpet, in to the middle of the room. Then we turn, and walk towards the front of the room, and the stage. Huge screens flank the stage, and I realise that I've been on them, smiling, and thirty feet high. The walls of the room are draped with dark blue curtains covered with stars. And the room is packed. Sixteen Hundred people are watching us. And I'm part of this.
We reach the VIP tables, sit and watch as the standard bearers march on to the stage, and break into a dance routine. I'm told that these guys are actually some of our sales people. There's more humiliation to follow as my name gets called out and I have to stand and wave to the assembled throng. There's another dance number, and then the main sales pitch of the evening - because that's what this evening is, a motivational and awards night - the chance to win a trip to London. As the pitch is made, images of London flash on the screen, and at the peak, the curtains all around the room rise, revealing a panorama of the London skyline, then fall back behind the skyline. We are now in cardboard London in the evening. Firework streamers fill the sky. And another dance number - 'Welcome to London'. I really wanted to win the trip at this point.
The food starts, a typical nine course dinner, with luxury items like sharks fin soup on the menu. And the awards start too. Everyone in the room is a top producer, and most of them are getting awards of some kind, from a plastic plaque to a plastic plaque and a cheque for a million Dong (fifty quid). I present six awards, with a huge amount of pride.
We have a break from the awards, with another dance number, based around Titanic. More awards, and then they trot out the big guns - Vietnam's top pop star does a couple of numbers.
The evening ends with sixteen hundred motivated sales men and women. The evening ends with me exhausted, and impressed, and proud to be a part of this. The thing that gets to me though, is a conversation I had in the men's room with one of our unit managers. We were both passing water in to the same toilet bowl, and he was telling me in faltering English how proud he was to be part of this company. At that moment, he couldn't have been more proud than I was.
Thursday night, at dinner, Tom was talking about his time in Vietnam. He was 22, and based maybe 30 kilometres away from Saigon. It was 1969, and he spent 365 days here as part of his National Service. He never saw the city, he only saw the villages. I don't know if he was involved in combat. I didn't ask.
As I listened, and asked questions I thought were not tasteless, I was seated between two of our senior staff here. Both left on boats in the late 70s. Our CEO here was twelve. I was ten. I remember watching the "plight of the Vietnamese boat people" on the news. I thought Vietnam sounded like a hellish place. Somewhere I would never want to visit. God knows how Tom felt. It took a lot of courage for him to come here at all. He admits he would never go to Hanoi.
Vietnam has had a long, bloody history. There's an upside to this.
Over half of the population is below the age of 25. The country is alive, and it's vibrant. It's not a developed economy by any means, but it's getting there fast. And it's not afraid to learn from the mistakes of other countries. As a result it's bypassing some of the slow, tortuous back-roads of development that make Hong Kong feel like somebody took the nineteen fifties and suddenly gave them twenty-first century technology. It's a tremendous place.
I think I would be fooling myself if I said that there was no bitterness about the war, though. But I never see any. I see Americans with no bitterness working with Vietnamese with no acrimony. A large part of that is to do with the fact that most of the Vietnamese people here have no memory of the war (although you can rest assured that they KNOW their history). A large part of that is the fact that resentment is not really something in the mindset. There's more to life.
Next trip planned down memory lane is to go to Cambodia in May (I've not mentioned this to Mr Twinky yet, naturally). We'll see if it really looks like it did on Blue Peter.